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VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild WRITTEN BY: Don Ekama
These horrific true crimes changed these small towns forever. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're counting down our picks for the most shocking and disturbing crimes to strike otherwise peaceful and largely unknown small towns. Our countdown of true crimes that shook small towns includes The 'Investor' Fishing Boat Murders, The Clutter Family Murders, The Kunz Family Killings, and more!

#10: The ‘Investor’ Fishing Boat Murders

Craig, Alaska
The small town of Craig, Alaska has largely thrived off commercial fishing. It was this business that attracted Mark Coulthurst and his crew from Blaine, Washington on September 5th 1982. Just two days later, Coulthurst’s boat – the Investor – was found burning just outside the town. Inside, a grim discovery was made. Coulthurst, his pregnant wife Irene, their two children, and four crewmen had been murdered. Witnesses reported seeing the perpetrator docking the boat, but it wasn’t until two years later that an arrest was made. John Peel, a former employee of Coulthurst, faced two criminal trials for the murders, but was acquitted in 1988. The case thrust the usually quiet Craig into a media frenzy and remains one of Alaska’s most shocking unsolved murders.

#9: Killing of Ken McElroy

Skidmore, Missouri
Skidmore, Missouri is a tight-knit farming community with a population that has never exceeded 600. So when Ken McElroy, a notorious local criminal, was shot and killed in broad daylight, before at least 30 witnesses, how come no one could identify the assailant? McElroy had terrorized the town’s residents for years and was even convicted of attempted murder for shooting a grocery store owner. While out on bail pending his appeal, he continued his reign of terror. The town’s frustration finally boiled over on July 10th 1981 when McElroy was murdered in his car while a crowd of people watched. Shockingly, no one could pinpoint the killer. The bizarre incident pulled Skidmore into the global spotlight, yet the murder remains officially unsolved.

#8: The Theoret Family Triple Homicide

Burk’s Falls, Ontario
A triple homicide where the perpetrator also takes their own life can leave even a big city shaken, let alone a tiny village like Burk’s Falls, Ontario. On February 23rd 2018, Burk’s Falls witnessed the horrifying murders of Ulla Theoret, as well as her son Paul, and her mother Raija Turunen in their home. The three had been shot and killed by their neighbor Mark Jones, who turned the gun on himself afterwards. Jones had reportedly stalked Theoret while trying to date her and even sexually assaulted her at one point. Seemingly angered by her refusal of his advances, Jones carefully planned and executed the murders. Although the case is essentially closed, the horrific loss still hangs over the small community.

#7: The Clutter Family Murders

Holcomb, Kansas
During the early hours of November 15th 1959, multiple gunshots rang through the tranquil farming community of Holcomb, Kansas. Prominent farmer Herb Clutter had been murdered in his home, alongside his wife, Bonnie, and their kids Nancy and Kenyon. The killers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, had heard a false rumor about a safe in the Clutter home and set out to rob them. However, after finding nothing on the property, they executed the entire family. The senseless nature of the crime deeply rattled the small town, which hadn’t seen anything like it before. Years later, it would become the basis for Truman Capote’s groundbreaking novel “In Cold Blood,” thrusting the case, as well as Holcomb, further into the spotlight.

#6: Murder of Grégory Villemin

Lépanges-sur-Vologne, Vosges
For decades, the rural town of Lépanges-sur-Vologne in Vosges, France, has been haunted by the mysterious murder of a young boy. On October 16th 1984, Grégory Villemin was found dead in the River Vologne. In the years preceding this tragedy, Grégory’s parents, Jean-Marie and Christine, had received ominous threats from an anonymous man with a thirst for revenge. After their son’s murder, they received another letter stating “I have taken vengeance”. A few family members were considered suspects in the case, including the boy’s own mother Christine, and Jean-Marie’s cousin Bernard Laroche. Jean-Marie would later go to prison after murdering Laroche, believing he was his son’s killer. Despite numerous investigations, the question of “who killed little Grégory?” remains unanswered.

#5: The Death of Nicole Lee Hattamer

Holcombe, Wisconsin
In 1989, the town of Holcombe, Wisconsin was gripped by the strange death of an infant, Nicole Lee Hattamer. Late in the night on December 26th, Hattamer vanished from her grandparents’ house only to be discovered lifeless in the snow just hours later. Subsequent investigation revealed that she may have been thrown to the ground, succumbing to either a chest injury or cold exposure. Two special hearings were held in 1990 and 1998, but neither yielded any substantial leads. It is worth noting that during the first hearing, Hattamer’s grandparents invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, and the family reportedly showed little interest in the case afterwards. Even with FBI involvement in the investigation, no criminal charges have ever been filed.

#4: The Ax Murders of Saxtown

Millstadt, Illinois
Saxtown, a small farming hamlet close to Millstadt, Illinois, was home to several German immigrant families. Back in 1874, a horrific tragedy befell one of them. Carl Stelzriede, as well as his son Friedrich, daughter-in-law Anna, and their two children were all murdered with an ax. From all indications, the perpetrator was someone close to the family. The incident struck fear into the tight-knit community and caused a growing distrust among its residents. Multiple suspects were arrested in connection with the murders, with one of them being tried and ultimately acquitted. Today, the Stelzriede’s barn still stands in its original position, bearing the marks of the fateful night that forever haunts this small town.

#3: Be-Lo Supermarket Slayings

Windsor, North Carolina
On June 6th 1993, an armed robbery at a Be-Lo grocery store in Windsor, North Carolina ended in the worst way imaginable. After forcing the manager to hand over the cash, the assailant tied up the store’s employees and arranged them in three separate piles. Then, he opened fire. The gunman took the lives of three people and inflicted severe injuries on two others before disappearing into the night. Investigators jumped on the case, pursuing every lead and developing a detailed profile of the suspect. Despite these efforts, the search for the perpetrator has proved unsuccessful. A $30,000 reward is still available for anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of the mysterious gunman.

#2: The Kunz Family Killings

Athens, Wisconsin
In July 1987, three siblings – Marie, Irene and Clarence Kunz, along with their nephew Randy – were found dead in their Athens, Wisconsin home. Randy’s mother, Helen, was missing from the house, and her body would be discovered nine months later in a swamp. Christopher Jacobs III, a farmer with previous business ties to the family, soon became the prime suspect. Jacobs was charged with being a party to the murders, but was ultimately acquitted by a jury. Just as the town was starting to put the incident behind them, it was thrust back into the headlines years later when Jacobs was charged with Helen’s kidnapping. This time around, he was found guilty and sentenced to 31 years in prison.

#1: Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders

Mayes County, Oklahoma
In 1977, the serene Camp Scott in Mayes County, Oklahoma was forever marred by a horrendous crime. The bodies of three Girls Scouts – Lori Farmer, Michele Guse and Denise Milner – were discovered outside their tent area. The girls had been sexually assaulted and murdered. This tragedy resulted in the camp’s evacuation and, ultimately, its permanent closure. About a year later, Gene Leroy Hart, a local criminal, was arrested and charged with the murders but was unanimously acquitted by a jury. Hart later died in prison for a previous offense, although subsequent DNA tests seem to suggest he had a hand in the murders. The case remains officially unsolved today, leaving the aggrieved families and the local community without closure.

What haunting small town crimes have you heard of? Let us know in the comments below.

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